Tech firms warned of tax hike if inaction continues

Social media companies could see their taxes increased if they fail to remove extremist material from their platforms, the security minister has warned.

Jan 4, 2018

Social media companies could see their taxes increased if they fail to remove extremist material from their platforms, the security minister has warned. Ben Wallace said “ruthless profiteers” would not get away with leaving the police service to repair the damage done by radicalising content. “Because content is not taken down as quickly as they could do, we’re having to de-radicalise people who have been radicalised,” he told the Sunday Times. “That’s costing millions. They [the firms] can’t get away with that and we should look at all options, including tax.” His warning comes after senior executives from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube’s owner Google, were told they are “profiting from violence” and criticised for failing to remove offensive content as they appeared before the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee. Last month, committee chair Yvette Cooper revealed anti-Semitic and abusive tweets previously flagged up by the MPs remained online, as did threats against Prime Minister Theresa May and racist taunts about Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott. Ms Cooper said progress had been made in the companies’ approach to online hate crime, but told the witness panel: “The reason we are pressing you so hard about this is because it is so important. “Because, in the end, this is about the kinds of extremism, whether that be Islamic extremism or far-right extremism, that can lead to very violent incidents. “It is about the kinds of hate crime that destroys lives. It is about the kind of harassment and abuse that can undermine political debate and undermine democracy and you are some of the richest companies in the world. “And that is why we need you to accelerate and we need you to do more.” The hearing on December 19 took place the day after Twitter suspended a number of accounts, including that of Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen, who gained notoriety when three anti-Islam videos she posted were retweeted by US president Donald Trump. Conservative MP Tim Loughton said the companies were inciting violence through inaction. “This is not about taking away somebody’s rights to criticise somebody whose politics they don’t agree with,’ he said. “It’s about not providing a platform – whatever the ills of society you want to blame it on – for placing stuff that incites people to kill, harm, maim, incite violence against people, because of their political beliefs in this case.” Sinead McSweeney, Twitter`s vice president of public policy and communications for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said there were “balances and risks” in how content is flagged for recommendation to avoid censuring items.

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